Why Your HR Department Probably Sucks

So… following a title like the above, I should probably fully disclose before going any further:  I have worked in HR, and have done a fair bit of consulting work with HR Business Areas.

Unlike the title may imply, I have met a number of smart, hardworking people in HR.  Like any other category of people, there are good, bad and ugly performers in HR.

So why would I suggest that HR probably sucks in your organization?

In many cases, it is because organizations don’t really know what it is that they should be asking HR to do for them, and HR professionals are notoriously poor at “selling” their wares.  Many companies want HR to administer the payroll, and arrange the Christmas party.  They then staff the HR group with people who are capable of doing those tasks, but do not have the experience or training to make a more strategic contribution to the business.

So, what should we look for in our HR department?

  1. “People Persons” are often the last people you should have in HR.  A good HR person knows that her job is to generate returns for shareholders.  The respectful treatment of people is a prerequisite to consistently generating those returns, but many “people persons” forget that some of their people may regularly need a kick in the ass.
  2. Your HR people need to have business training. I’m not suggesting you insist every one of them go out and get an MBA, but they need to have some understanding of the business you are in, and how it works.
  3. You need high potential, high achievers in HR.  I have worked with more than one organization that has used HR as a ghetto for people who could not make it in the operating part of the business.  These organizations have taken the easy way out, and put these poor performers where they perceive they can do the least amount of damage – in HR.  This is the opposite of what should be happening – your highest potential leaders should be cycled through HR.
  4. HR people need have well developed skills in sales and influencing.  The best managed companies know that the management of the Human Resource is NOT the responsibility of HR, but rather of every leader in the organization.  HR’s job is to influence those managers to do it well.  An HR professional, without the ability to influence organizational leaders is about as useful as a chocolate teapot.

Of course, I could go on and on, but I better get back to work before I get caught, and someone wants to send me to work in the HR group.  So now that I’ve offended every person who has ever known anyone in HR, I’d love to hear what you think about the HR group in your organization:  Are they good?  Are they bad?  Are they the highest potential employees?

It has been said that populations get the governments they deserve.  In organizations, we end up with the HR departments we deserve.